Even before there was a Chemeketa, there was Salem Technical-Vocational School, operated by Salem Public Schools. Salem Tech's first full-time classes were held in an old elementary school. Practical Nursing and Electronics Engineering Technician programs were developed in 1957, 70 full-time students were enrolled, and staff included five full-time instructors.
In the early 60s, a group of citizen leaders from throughout the mid-Willamette Valley spearheaded a movement to transform Salem Tech into a comprehensive community college which would serve the area. Chemeketa is the result of that effort.
In 1964, Salem Tech moved to its present site on Lancaster Drive, where a one-story brick building, a machine and welding shop, and a number of temporary buildings soon made up the campus. In 1965, the school's name was changed to Salem Technical Vocational Community College.
September 23, 1969 — Mid-Willamette area residents vote to establish a community college. This means that the former "Salem Tech" will become a community college serving Marion, Polk, most of Yamhill, and part of Linn counties. The first Board of Education is elected.
December 1969 — After a contest conducted among the students of Salem Tech and all of the district high schools, the Board of Education approves the name Chemeketa Community College.